It was inevitable, right? It was our honeymoon. One of us had to get hit by a car. That I was the one, not Karen, does not surprise me at all. I only see this now, looking back. I’m crossing the street. I hardly look. I resemble my father, Ira, who was voted “Most Likely to Get Hit by a Car” in his high school yearbook. And my father, a tall, prominent man, has been hit by cars before, one time a school bus.

I was on my way to buy oranges. I was standing on the curb, day-dreaming (about eating an orange in bed, slice by slice, my new wife happily dozing next to me) when I sort of just stepped onto the street, and KABOOM!

“Oh no,” I screamed.

“Oh no,” as I was launched, unpleasantly, into the pavement.

“Oh no,” as my foot, which until then had enjoyed a comfortable relationship with a leather beach sandal, rolled under the wheel of a tiny red coupe.

Oh no, oh no, oh no: three times, in quick succession, each a bit more panicky than the last.

The tiny red coupe stopped. I was on the pavement, looking up, somewhat embarrassed.

I mean, what kind of guy screams, Oh no like that?

A small crowd assembled. Two women, both stunned and extremely pretty, leaped from the tiny red coupe, and pushed through the crowd.

Dios mio!” they gasped.

And the really pretty one, the driver I guess, sensed something unique about me-had she heard me scream, Oh no?-because she did not address me next in Catalan, or even Spanish (I mean we were in Barcelona and I’ve been told before, I look Spanish) but instead shrieked in English, “Are you alive?”

Which was very unsettling.

Maybe she meant, “Are you alright?”

My back hurt, and my foot and my head. But death? I couldn’t help but affirm what had seemed obvious until that point. I stood up.

“I’m alive,” I said.

The crowd dispersed. I caught the eye of a fit guy on a ten-speed bicycle; riding away, he looked disappointed. I was alone with the two women. I was alive. When my father was hit by the bus he called it The Uppercut. This was more Punch-Buggy.

“Where’s your foot?” the other one asked.

I noticed she really wasn’t pretty at all.

“Does this hurt?” the driver said, leaning down towards me, gently, touching my naked foot.

I wanted to say, “Yes, it hurts .”

I wanted to say this just to please her.

But then she said, “Let’s go to the hospital,” and I imagined my life soaring away into a foreign oblivion. It was only the second day of my honeymoon and I had not oriented myself to the city. Don’t ask me why, but here in Barcelona, the most cosmopolitan of Spanish cities, a city I had lived in in my early-twenties, I imagined a sort of military atmosphere, a large, foursquare room, uniformly uncomfortable beds, patients dying. We were staying at a friend’s flat on Sepulveda, but I didn’t know the street name at the time, and I definitely didn’t know the number. What if I had to stay at the foreign hospital? What about my new wife, who at that moment was sitting on a plaza nearby filming a flamenco street performance? She’d wonder where I was. She’d look for me. Maybe she’d find my beach sandal and freak. Maybe she’d find nothing and freak. Possibly, we’d meet up, days later.

“No,” I said.

I could’ve asked the far less pretty one to find Karen. I could’ve waited with the driver. We could’ve talked about ourselves. I could’ve voyaged to the hospital with three woman, two strangers and a wife, each one asking in her own way, “Does that hurt?” Really, though, I just wanted to see my wife.

And that’s what I said. “I want to see my wife.”

The ugly one lit a cigarette.

“Are you so sure?” she said.

“I’m sure,” I said.

Now here’s what bothers me. Next, instead of making my way to Karen, I limped across the street and staggered into the fruit market. I browsed the fruit bins, feeling immensely sorry for myself. I was, actually, dying, as I learned a few days later, and I guess I was already feeling a little spooky.  I thought of our wedding night, how I vomited in the bushes, and then we lounged, as newlyweds, in a broken hammock. I wanted to get better, but I also wanted to get worse, to keep Karen forever leaning over me, rubbing my shoulders, and whispering, “Is that better?”

I bought my oranges, re-crossed the street, and made my way back to the plaza I’d left maybe ten minutes earlier. My sleeves were shredded, my remaining sandal no longer fit right. I turned up some alley, passed a gelato shop, which smelled like coconut, limped down a narrow, secret street, under an arch leading onto a plaza, and there was Karen, the loveliest women I’d ever seen, peering through our digital camera, and I corrected my limp although it hurt.

What would I tell her?

Perhaps I’d tell her I bought the most spectacular oranges. I’d already tasted one and it was delicious. She saw me and smiled, her adorable Karen-smile, so giving, and I felt a pain in my heart. Perhaps I would tell her nothing. At last, when my thin shadow spread across the pavement where she was sitting, she looked up, frowned a bit, and said, “What took you so long?”

“I was hit by a car.”

“Shut up.”

I pointed to my one foot, deserted, trampled. She burst into tears.

“What happened?”

We sat, on the plaza, clutching each other. Karen was afraid to let me go and I was afraid to let her go. What other scary thing might happen?

“Do you want to go to the hospital?” Karen asked.

Have you read Frank O’Hara’s poem about Lana Turner? “Lana Turner has collapsed!” My favorite lines in all of American poetry:

“I have been to lots of parties/ and acted perfectly disgraceful/ but I never actually collapsed.”

What kind of person gets hit by a car on their honeymoon? Sitting there, I remember thinking: this whole incident seems to prove on some level that I am incompetent. I looked at my new wife, at the slender profile of her face, the tears marking her cheeks, her lovely pecas, which is Spanish for “freckles.”

I remember little of the days after I was hit by the tiny red coupe.

I remember the streets we walked from the metro to the beach. I remember reading lunch menus on the chalkboards. I remember a guy on the beach balancing doughnuts on a plank on his head. One evening, Karen dragged me from the metro station on her back to the flat on Sepulveda. I’m dying, I remember feeling.

My courage, or stupidity, still surprises me. I refused to give it much thought. I had already done enough to ruin our honeymoon.

One morning I looked in the mirror and noticed my ribs pulsating around my abdomen. I was thirsty, unimaginably thirsty, as if a vacuum were sucking the water out of my body. Whatever was happening was undeniable.

So I asked my new wife to call the doctor. One hour later, nearly dead, I was rushed to the ER, where I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. They hooked me up to a tube of insulin the size of a bomb. It was called “La bomba.” At night, after visiting hours had ended, Karen would go home to the flat on Sepulveda alone. I can see her now, standing on the balcony, surrounded by a prolific breed of plants, looking out to the building across the courtyard, looking up to the ridiculous sky.

I stayed in the hospital for six days.

The fact that all this happened during my honeymoon depressed me for months.

To get hit by a car on your honeymoon is not good. To enter the hospital, nearly dead, on your honeymoon, is worse. I had given a vow a month before, to have Karen as my wife, to live together in marriage, to love her, to comfort her, to honor her and keep her, in sickness and health, in sorrow and joy, and to be faithful to her, as long as we both shall live. With this vow comes an unspoken promise, one that a young guy might feel obliged to ignore: to stay alive. It’s important not to die. Beyond the grandiose gestures of wedding  vows, the most human thing a couple can do together is survive.

It’s rare, I imagine, to receive that sort of lesson on a honeymoon. But I did. We did.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?” Karen had asked that night on the plaza.

“Of course not,” I had said.

And so we went off to a little restaurant in El Raval. It was our honeymoon, after all. I remember devouring my monkfish paella. I remember looking at my wife, how she dissected a plate of prawns in a silence she broke only to ask for more wine. I remember the wine, the tang of cheap rioja, the two bottles we swilled out of sheer joy.

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SETH POLLINS, a strong advocate of dinner, is a writer and who lives with his wife in Ambler, a small town outside Philadelphia. He currently works at Villanova University's Writing Center and Whole Foods Market as a lively lecturer, recipe developer, and all-around food optimist. He earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College and is currently finishing his novel, Bump. Seth writes for the food blog, FoodVibe. Fanatics can follow him on Twitter.

24 responses to “My Honeymoon Horror Story”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Damn, Seth,

    You have me in tears, laughing about horrible things.
    That is very good writing when you can turn bad into funny.
    I hope you write a lot on TNB.
    I think you must be new here, at least I can’t remember seeing and reading you before.
    Welcome, if that is so.
    Your writing is good for us.

    • Seth Pollins says:

      Thank you, Irene. I appreciate your kind words. Yes, I am new here. This is my second post.

      Oh, and my intention was to be lighthearted, so don’t worry about the laughter–considering the ridiculousness of what happened, laughter seems entirely appropriate to me.

  2. Art Edwards says:

    Yes, your writing is good for us. This is lovely, Seth. Wonderful emotional control of your subject. I’d love to read more.

    Art

  3. angela says:

    i hate to say i enjoyed this – ie, enjoyed your misery – but i did, and look forward to more. . .great writing from you, that is, not misery (though the two often go hand in hand, at least for me).

    • Seth Pollins says:

      Thanks, Angela. I try to avoid misery as a rule, but I agree, it sometimes goes hand in hand with good writing. One of my favorite books, Notes From Underground, is in some ways an ode to misery. But really, to me, it seems like the act of writing is optimistic. I like what Tobias Wolff says:

      “The very act of writing assumes, to begin with, that someone cares to hear what you have to say. It assumes that people can be reached, that people can be touched and in some cases changed…It seems to me that the final symptom of despair is silence, and that storytelling is one of the sustaining arts; it’s one of the affirming arts.”

  4. Seth, can I say that I am happy that you wrote this on TNB, but so sorry it happened? Like Angela expressed above — your misery is very entertaining. Glad you are here to tell the story!

  5. This is my favorite sort of story, one in which the humor sneaks up on you and while you’re laughing you remember, “but oh my god he’s dying.” I’m certainly glad you were okay in the end! “They hooked me up to a tube of insulin the size of a bomb. It was called ‘La bomba.'” — that could be a line in a Wes Anderson script, you know. Quirky. Funny. But serious. And the “oh no” reaction. I can just picture it all unfolding with the same kind of alarmed passivity. I agree with all of the commenters above. MORE.

    • Seth Pollins says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. I gather from your writing and your avatar that you’re into that certain Wes Anderson sensibility. I’ve always tried to let Wes Anderson’s films inform my writing. His tone is the exact tone I’m shooting for–personified best, for me, by Steve Zissou. There’s something about his films that strikes the exact coordinates of my soul. So, really, thanks for that comment!

      Oh, and: “Alarmed passivity.” Great phrase.

  6. Bert says:

    I love this story, Seth. You have a distinctive voice that comes through in this, along with your zest for life.

  7. Seth Pollins says:

    Thanks, Bert. Zest is good on chicken too.

  8. Bert says:

    Don’t you just hate the word “zest” though? Words that begin with the letter “z” are inexcusable. If chicken began with a “z” (zchicken), it would be an obscure meat eaten only by weird people.

  9. Seth Pollins says:

    Beyond the culinary “zest”, I associate the word “zest” with low-fat salad dressing, obscure aerobic exercises, and frizzy haired, overexcited women with big glasses from the 80s. Yes, not really the best word. And I would never eat zchicken, or even zicken, for that matter. I agree, words that begin with “z” are just inexcusable.

  10. Becky Palapala says:

    Alright. You win.

    Worst thing that happened to me on my Hawaiian honeymoon was one vicious hangover and that I suffered nightly nightmares as a result of my inexplicably chosen light reading material: Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii

    • Seth Pollins says:

      Hi Becky. Last summer, before a weekend of surfing, I chose to read Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916. That was my latest bout of inexplicably chosen light reading material.

  11. Zara Potts says:

    What a lovely piece. Well – not a lovely story, but a lovely piece.
    Such a gentle and funny voice you have. I really enjoyed this. The observations you make, both external and internal, are just spot on.
    I hope your next post is not far away. And I hope your blood sugar is behaving and you haven’t had anymore run ins with cars, buses or scooters even.

  12. Whenever I travel to foreign countries, I try to remind myself that my odd word choice/grammar/sentence structure a la “Are you alive?” will make a funny dinner conversation for the native speaker with whom I converse. It helps get over the muteness associated with the fear of sounding like an ass. Thanks for giving me a real world example that I might just be right.

    • Seth Pollins says:

      When we first lived in Barcelona, in 2001, I remember not really speaking for days on end–that fear of sounding like an ass just muted me entirely. One of the first conversations I had, with my Catalan roommate, ended up lasting for hours. It was like I had just been released from confinement.

  13. Sara McH says:

    The first day of our honeymoon, before we even left town, Tom slipped on the stairs of our apartment and twisted his ankle. Now I’m relieved he wasn’t hit by a car!

    I have crossed lots of streets/and demanded the right-of-way perfectly disgracefully/but never actually been hit by a car.

  14. sheree says:

    Great writing.
    Glad you’re ok.

  15. […] wasn’t until my honeymoon in Barcelona, when I was hit by a car, and later diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, that I began to reconsider my […]

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